Archive for June, 2011

AFCI & Electrical Safety.

I used to turn off the Main Breaker to change a light bulb.  Electric just freaked me out.  Now, my clients remark about my bravery when I stick my fingers in open panels.  It’s more like stupidity.  Mind you, I don’t do it to be brave and most inspectors still don’t do it, and quite frankly, there isn’t a good reason to be doing it.  There are certain hazards associated with this and it is not a recommended practice, however sometimes I still do it.  Hard headed Italian comes to mind…

My point is (or started out to be) that electricity, while a wonderful convenience, is still something to be respected.  Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters were one of the great inventions for saving lives.  It’s not like I throw appliances in the sink while I’m washing dishes, but knowing the protection is there is comforting.

Standards for Arc Fault Circuit Interrupters (AFCI’s) were being developed in the mid 1990’s and in January, 2002, AFCI’s were required in dwelling unit bedrooms.  AFCIs detect dangerous electrical conditions and shut the circuit off before an electrical fire has a chance to ignite.  Now protection is required in other rooms of the house.  It’s a good idea. While GFCIs save your life, AFCIs save your house.

Take for instance you see this nice lamp at a yard sale that would fit perfectly in the foyer or over a workbench in the garage (obviously not the same lamp).  Small lamp cords especially, can break down internally as well as on the outside.  Over a period of time it starts to ‘arc’ and eventually can start a fire.  I’m always telling my family to not walk on the extension cords to the floor fan or the iron.  Ever notice the ceramic holder for the light bulb spin just a little when you change the bulb?  So many things are potential hazards.  Arc fault fires are sleeping monsters.  AFCI breakers prevent the monsters from coming to life.

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Deck Safety.

It’s generally agreed that exterior decks have a life expectancy of 10 to 15 years.  It seems like that is the rule for many appliances, so I guess decks wanted to get in the picture.  Unlike a failed air conditioner that will cause discomfort, a fail deck can cause injury or death.  Every year there are horror stories about a deck collapse.  What can you do to help insure safety?

If you are purchasing a home, your Home Inspector should include a snapshot of your deck’s condition and point out the usual failure points.  Over 50% of the decks I see have some issues either with connections to the building, improperly fastened joist hangers to rotten wood and bad railings.  However, you may not be buying a home every Spring, and having a Home Inspector hanging around your house can be kind of creepy.  There are other things you can do.

The North American Deck and Railing Association has a Deck Evaluation Form and a Consumer Checklist that you can download and do your own evaluation.  Simpson Strong Tie has good information also.  If anything looks wrong, or if you’re just not quite sure, please call a professional and have them check it out.  Don’t ruin your Summer with a poor choice when it comes to deck safety…. Check it out!

North American Deck & Railing Association.

Simpson Strong-Tie.

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If you have to go in your attic for something this time of year, the heat is unforgiving.  Besides trying to get out as soon as possible you should be thinking about ventilation and, “Do I have enough?”

Minimum recommended attic ventilation is 1 Sq Foot for every 300 Sq Feet of attic area.  Multiplying the length by the width of your home should give you the area.  You should have as much intake ventilation as exhaust ventilation.  Truth is you can’t have too much ventilation if you stick to the 50/50 rule.  50% intake under the eaves and 50% exhaust at or near the roof peak.  However, most homes have too little.  So what’s the big deal?

When I do a home inspection I’m on the warpath for moisture.  We often think of moisture in the form of rain or groundwater and these are culprits but moisture in the form of humidity can be just as evil.  Moisture in improperly ventilated attics can cause mold, mildew and rot.  Higher temperatures can shorten the life span of building materials like your roof.  Ventilation is just as important in the cold months too, but the hot weather can bring it to the forefront of our thinking, especially if you have to go “up there.”

Gable roofs are the easiest to ventilate because they have the longest ridges.  Hip roofs are more of a challenge as are Mansard roofs. Dormers create their own set of challenges.  Surprisingly many builders don’t understand proper ventilation and sometimes opt for the cheapest way to “Git-R-Done.”

A good Home Inspector should be looking at the attic ventilation as part of the overall picture.  If you are not planning on a home inspection in the near future, pick a cooler day and take a good look at your attic ventilation.  You can save money and costly repairs by simply increasing it.

A source of good information on ventilation is Lomanco.

Stay cool!

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